Every team is lining up its boards, thinking through every scenario and dreaming of how things would best play out in the 2022 NFL Draft.
In this exercise, I make those dreams come true by distributing the draft's top prospects among all 32 teams, giving them ideal picks for each of their first two selections, with the goal of meeting a crucial need and representing good value at that point in the draft.
There are two things to keep in mind while reading this article. First, I kept some semblance of realism in this process, not projecting probable top-10 players into the late first round just because a team would love to have that player. Second, assigning all players just once -- that is, none are repeated -- means some will be listed at draft slots that are later than their talent portends (this is exactly why trades occur).
You will also notice some excellent talents are not listed, just because of how team needs shape the draft, and the fact that a record eight teams' top two picks land in the first round. Linebacker Nakobe Dean, defensive backs Daxton Hill and Jalen Pitre, running back Breece Hall and edge rushers Arnold Ebiketie and David Ojabo are just a few of the unnamed potential top-50 selections.
Round 1: No. 14 overall -- Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Round 2: No. 45 overall -- Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska
Lloyd steps into the role of inside linebacker, enabling Patrick Queen to play free at "Will," where he excelled at times in 2021. Either trading down in the first to select Tyler Linderbaum or snapping up the athletic, rugged Jurgens in the second round would fill a gaping hole left in the middle of the team's offensive line by the free-agency departure of center Bradley Bozeman.
Round 1: No. 25 overall -- Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Round 2: No. 57 overall -- Joshua Ezeudu, OG, North Carolina
McDuffie is an excellent corner who battles receivers and takes on running backs in the open field. His height (just under 5-foot-11) and length (arms measuring less than 30 inches) are not ideal for the position, but general manager Brandon Beane is smart enough to overlook those perceived shortcomings. Ezeudu's an underappreciated prospect who gave North Carolina guard-tackle versatility on the left side and could play either spot in the NFL.
Round 1: No. 31 overall -- Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Round 2: No. 63 overall -- Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
By shoring up the offensive line in free agency, the Bengals opened up many possibilities for themselves early in the draft. Even if they decide to bring back Larry Ogunjobi (whose failed physical preempted an agreed-to pact with the Bears) on a one-year deal to contribute after recovering from his foot injury, they could use another interior pass rush threat like Wyatt. Their depth is lacking at tight end, as well, after losing C.J. Uzomah to free agency; Woods can serve as a literally big threat (measuring 6-7 and 259 pounds) down the seam and in the red zone for Joe Burrow while also offering strength as a run blocker.
Round 2: No. 44 overall -- Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut
Round 3: No. 78 overall -- Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina
The Browns traded their first-round pick to Houston for quarterback Deshaun Watson but managed to keep this year's second- and third-round picks. Cleveland would be quite happy acquiring a big body like Jones and a strong pass rusher like Enagbare on Day 2, given their lean depth chart along the defensive line. They'll find another receiver with their late third- or mid-fourth round picks to complement the newly-acquired Amari Cooper.
Round 2: No. 64 overall -- Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
Round 3: No. 75 overall -- Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Sending away their first- and second-round picks to Seattle for quarterback Russell Wilson means that, barring a trade, the Broncos will be silent until the 64th selection (gained by shipping former All-Pro edge Von Miller to the Rams last season). They own four of the next 51 picks, though, and would do well to pick McBride as their initial choice, because he's a reliable target for Wilson and willing blocker in the run game. The Broncos keep Andersen in the Rocky Mountain region to add athleticism to the second level of their defense.
Round 1: No. 3 overall -- Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
Round 1: No. 13 overall -- Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida State
Last year, the Texans didn't have first- or second-round picks because they sent them to Miami for left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills in 2019. Their draft fortunes turn around this year, as they gained a first-round pick in the Deshaun Watson trade, and they'll have three picks on Day 2 of the draft. Ekwonu slides into right tackle or one of the guard spots as a rookie and will take over for Tunsil in time. Adding Johnson to a lackluster pass-rusher group should put a smile on head coach Lovie Smith's face.
Round 2: No. 42 overall -- Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Round 2: No. 73 overall -- Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Head coach Frank Reich presumably thought he could bring in Carson Wentz last year (via a trade that cost Indy its first-round pick in 2022) and re-live their Super Bowl-winning ways from their days together in Philadelphia. That did not work out as hoped, so Wentz was traded to Washington (netting the Colts both picks listed above), and Matt Ryan was brought in to replace him. Ryan, who turns 37 in May, is a one- or two-year solution at the position. Selecting the talented Strong (who would be available due to his limited mobility and knee issues) is a low-risk investment in his potential down the road. Eric Fisher was signed to a one-year deal in 2021 to replace Anthony Castonzo at left tackle. Fisher probably won't be brought back in 2022, so Raimann will get a shot to be a true long-term replacement.
Round 1: No. 1 overall -- Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
Round 2: No. 33 overall -- Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Signing ex-49er Arden Key bolstered the Jaguars' edge depth, but Hutchinson is still well worth jumping on as a strong three-down player who will be a robust run defender and bring down any quarterbacks who are chased in his direction by Josh Allen. The retirement of Brandon Linder means Jacksonville will be in the market for a young center. Linderbaum may fall to the second round (like Creed Humphrey did last year, to the Chiefs' good fortune) because of his lack of size and length. My comparison player for him is Ryan Kalil, who had a great career in Carolina (as a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro) after being picked in the second round in 2007.
Round 1: No. 29 overall -- George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Round 1: No. 30 overall -- Drake Jackson, Edge, USC
GM Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid will probably try to move into the middle part of Round 1 for receivers Jameson Williams or Chris Olave, now that they have two first-round picks (one received from Miami in the Tyreek Hill trade). If they can't pull that off, though, Pickens will be a nice fit as an outside target for Patrick Mahomes; teams should not overlook the resiliency Pickens showed in returning from a torn ACL in the spring to contribute for the national champs. Kansas City needs depth at defensive end, as well, and Jackson's get-off from a three-point stance is impressive.
Round 3: No. 86 overall -- Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
Round 4: No. 126 overall -- Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
Trading their first- and second-round picks to Green Bay for receiver Davante Adams means the Raiders will not pick until the middle of the third round -- which, I think, is fine by them. Mathis adds versatility, hustle and size to the team's interior defensive line, and Walker presents good value as a swing tackle or an eventual starter.
Round 1: No. 17 overall -- Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Round 3: No. 79 overall -- David Bell, WR, Purdue
The Chargers traded their second-round pick, along with a sixth-round pick next year, to Chicago for edge Khalil Mack. The right side of their offensive line struggled in 2021, so picking up a strong, brutish lineman like Penning seems logical. Bell adds to an already strong receivers group, bringing toughness and reliability rather than elite athleticism -- much like five-time Pro Bowler Keenan Allen, who was selected in the third round (76th overall) by the Chargers in 2013.
Round 3: No. 102 overall -- Luke Fortner, C, Kentucky
Round 4: No. 125 overall -- Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma
Between last year's draft trades and their recent deal for Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins no longer possess first- or second-round picks, or their original third-rounder. They did receive a late third from San Francisco in the Trey Lance deal last spring, however, which should be used on a reliable center like Fortner to continue the team's efforts to re-tool the offensive line. Asamoah pairs with Jerome Baker inside; he can chase run plays and attack short throws in his area.
Round 1: No. 21 overall -- Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
Round 2: No. 54 overall -- Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin
Look for the Patriots to try to trade out of the 21st pick. If they're stuck there, however, Johnson's stout play and underappreciated mobility help make up for the loss of Ted Karras to free agency and trade of Shaq Mason to the Bucs. Chenal possesses the versatility Bill Belichick likes in his linebackers; the quickness and tenacious nature of the former Badger allows him to attack quarterbacks as well as close gaps and chase down run plays.
Round 1: No. 4 overall -- Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
Round 1: No. 10 overall -- Drake London, WR, USC
In Walker, Robert Saleh must see similarities to two long, versatile defensive linemen he coached with the 49ers: Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. New York's second first-round selection is the final pick in the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle; adding a tall, agile receiver like London complements Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios, making life easier for quarterback Zach Wilson heading into Year 2.
Round 1: No. 20 overall -- Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Round 2: No. 52 overall -- Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
With the search for Ben Roethlisberger's long-term replacement continuing, second-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada should be enamored with Ridder's maturity, arm talent, pocket poise and ability to create yardage with his feet. Finding another receiver is another priority for Pittsburgh. Moore's strong hands and explosiveness give him a shot to contribute early.
Round 1: No. 26 overall -- Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Round 3: No. 90 overall -- Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
Howell's ability to make plays from -- and outside -- the pocket might push the Titans, who have Ryan Tannehill entrenched as their starter, to follow the example set by teams that have drafted a first-round QB despite the presence of a veteran (see: the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith in 2017, the Packers with Jordan Love and Aaron Rodgers in 2020 and the Niners with Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo last year). Faalele's 6-foot-8, 384-pound build could entice another team before the Titans (whose second-rounder went to Atlanta in last year's Julio Jones trade) make their next selection, in Round 3, but he would really fit well with the desire to create huge runways for Derrick Henry in the run game.
Round 1: No. 23 overall -- Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Round 2: No. 55 overall -- Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Burks is a physical receiver who can take pressure off DeAndre Hopkins downfield and free up Rondale Moore in the short- and intermediate-passing game. Depth at cornerback is a big need for Arizona, as well, and there will be some options in the second round. Elam's physicality and never-back-down attitude will serve him well on Sundays.
Round 1: No. 8 overall -- Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
Round 2: No. 43 overall -- Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
GM Terry Fontenot will have a tough choice to make if Thibodeaux and the top receivers are all on the board at eight. I'm going with Thibodeaux here, because Atlanta is more likely to find a difference-maker at receiver than on the edge early in Rounds 2 or 3. Dotson is one such example, as his lack of size should not cause teams to ignore his reliable hands and playmaking ability after the catch.
Round 1: No. 6 overall -- Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Round 4: No. 137 overall -- Myjai Sanders, Edge, Cincinnati
The Panthers traded their second- and fourth-round picks to the Jets as part of the deal for quarterback Sam Darnold last year and are still looking for a difference-maker at that position. Pickett is an experienced player who has the mental make-up and athleticism to step into the job this year if needed. They also sent their third-round pick to Jacksonville for former first-round cornerback C.J. Henderson last year, meaning they must wait until the end of the fourth round (with a pick acquired from Houston in a 2021 draft-day trade) to select a pass rusher like the lean, long Sanders.
Round 2: No. 39 overall -- Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Round 2: No. 48 overall -- Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Chicago does not have a first-round pick as of now because of the team's trade up for Justin Fields in last year's draft. However, the Bears should be able to find a first round-quality player with their initial selection, like Gordon, to quickly improve their secondary. Their second top-fifty selection (received from the Chargers for Khalil Mack) brings a playmaking receiver in Watson, whose height and speed on the outside will be welcomed.
Round 1: No. 24 overall -- Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Round 2: No. 56 overall -- Nik Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma
With Dallas allowing Connor Williams to leave via free agency, Green steps directly into the left guard spot -- or, potentially, at right tackle, which was also left vacant by the release of La'el Collins, depending upon how the rest of the draft plays out. Signing Dante Fowler helps the team's pass rush a bit, but the Cowboys must covet Bonitto's get-off and wanton disregard for ball-carriers. They probably want a receiver in the first two rounds, but the competition will be fierce at that position, so a trade up from this later slot might be required to select one of value.
Round 1: No. 2 overall -- Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Round 1: No. 32 overall -- Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota
The Lions received the last pick of the first round as part of the Matthew Stafford trade compensation. That deal brought veteran QB Jared Goff from the Rams, but it's likely the team is looking for its future under center -- which should be Willis. Detroit has not won a playoff game in over 30 years, and the former Auburn and Liberty quarterback has the skill set to end that drought. The Lions can meet their need for an edge rusher who can play right away by selecting an ascending talent like Mafe with their second first-rounder.
Round 1: No. 22 overall -- Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Round 1: No. 28 overall -- George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
Davante Adams decided his time in Green Bay was over, and the Packers managed to snag first- and second-round picks from the Raiders in return. Don't be surprised if they move up to grab either the smooth, speedy Olave, an offensive tackle, or a powerful edge defender like Karlaftis. With Za'Darius Smith heading to NFC North-rival Minnesota, Green Bay could use a third pass-rushing talent outside, to join Rashan Gary and Preston Smith.
Round 3: No. 104 overall -- DeAngelo Malone, Edge, Western Kentucky
Round 4: No. 142 overall -- Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State
GM Les Snead's strategy of forgetting "them picks" -- or something like that -- paid off with a Super Bowl title last season. The Rams sent their first-round pick to Detroit for Matthew Stafford and their second- and third-round picks to Denver for Von Miller. Los Angeles did pick up a late third-round selection in exchange for having executive Brad Holmes hired away by the Lions. Malone would be a nice find at 104, adding another long, quick pass rusher to compensate for the loss of Miller in free agency. The team signed Giants castoff Riley Dixon to a one-year deal recently, but Araiza's strong leg on punts and kickoffs should still keep him in the mix for the Rams.
Round 1: No. 12 overall -- Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Round 2: No. 46 overall -- Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
The team's secondary depth still needs work, even after bringing back veteran Patrick Peterson -- who, in this scenario, will mentor another former LSU Tiger in Stingley as he transitions to the NFL. Smith's a work in progress, but his excellent length and athleticism make him worth a shot in the second round as a potential starting guard or tackle.
Round 1: No. 16 overall -- Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Round 1: No. 19 overall -- Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
I suspect the Saints will move up to grab one of the top four quarterbacks. Since that move hasn't happened yet, however, I'll say for now they address their need for speed at receiver, making Williams a main target even if he does not play early in the 2022 season, coming off a torn ACL. The departure of Terron Armstead also means they are looking for another left tackle, and Cross' pass-protection skills are excellent.
Round 1: No. 5 overall -- Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Round 1: No. 7 overall -- Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Even if they trade down from one of their two top-10 picks (one received from the Bears on a 2021 draft-day trade), the Giants will meet two crucial needs early in the draft. Neal is a logical choice to step in at right tackle (where he played in 2020) to replace Nate Solder. It will be interesting to see whether the Giants have more interest in Stingley or "Sauce" at cornerback; I'll say Gardner gets the nod, due to his length and physical nature.
Round 1: No. 15 overall -- Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Round 1: No. 18 overall -- Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
I expect GM Howie Roseman to follow his trade with the Saints, in which the Eagles gave up one of their three first-round picks in exchange for future draft capital, by moving up this year to select a top prospect. One of his targets could be Davis, a massive lineman who would automatically improve one of the league's worst run defenses. The secondary instantly becomes a strength if Hamilton quiets those doubting his ability to consistently affect games from the safety position.
Round 2: No. 61 overall -- Tariq Woolen, CB, Texas-San Antonio
Round 3: No. 93 overall -- Josh Paschal, Edge, Kentucky
The Niners dealt their first-round pick this year to Miami before the 2021 NFL Draft so they could move up to the No. 3 overall slot and select quarterback Trey Lance. Woolen brings size and athleticism to a thin secondary, a similar pick to when the team selected Ahkello Witherspoon early in Round 3 five years ago. Paschal is a low-center-of-gravity pass rusher; he uses that leverage and a relentless style to set the edge against the run and attack quarterbacks who fail to unload the ball quickly.
Round 1: No. 9 overall -- Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
Round 2: No. 40 overall -- Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Although they traded their original first-round pick to the Jets for safety Jamal Adams a couple of years ago, their recent trade of Russell Wilson to Denver netted them both picks listed above. Corral's quick release and athleticism should be on their radar, though there might be more competition for his services than most believe as of today. Walker's size and productivity must remind GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll of Bobby Wagner, who moved on to the NFC West-rival Rams after being released by Seattle.
Round 1: No. 27 overall -- Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Round 2: No. 60 overall -- James Cook, RB, Georgia
Tampa Bay simply lacked bodies at cornerback last year. Finding a top-20 talent like Booth late in the first because of minor injuries would be a great boon to their depth. Cook's speed and pass-catching ability should be coveted in the late second round; he'd give Tom Brady a James White-type receiver out of the backfield after the team lost Ronald Jones to the Chiefs in free agency.
Round 1: No. 11 overall -- Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Round 2: No. 47 overall -- Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
The trade for Carson Wentz requires Washington to find additional targets on whom he can rely. If Drake London is gone and Jameson Williams' injury is an issue, then Wilson could be brought in to pair with two other former Buckeyes, Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel. Cine's hard-hitting style and coverage ability make him a nice fit for the Commanders at free safety or nickel, depending upon where the team wants to play emerging star Kamren Curl.